Thursday, November 22

Six million surnames

In U.S. Name Count, Garcias Are Catching Up With Joneses (New York Times)

The article focuses on the recent entry of two Hispanic surnames into the top ten list of surnames in the U.S., but my family spent much more time discussing and debating this paragraph:

"Altogether, the census found six million surnames in the United States. Among those, 151,000 were shared by a hundred or more Americans. Four million were held by only one person."

Two-thirds of the surnames in the U.S. are held by only one person? How could that be? These are the best reasons we could come up with:
  1. Young immigrants who recently entered the country and are not yet married, many of whom could have a unique last name because of the myriad of ways you could translate their surname into English
  2. Married women who change their legal name to include a hyphen
  3. Others who change their surnames to be unique
  4. Uncommon variations of otherwise common names
  5. Data input errors by the Census Bureau
What do you think?

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